Hands-on with Palm's Pixi webOS smartphone [review]

Last week I was able to play with the Palm Pixi, which isn't yet available, in person. And it's the cutest darn little phone you ever did see. In other words: if you're looking for a BlackBerry replacement, keep looking.

Mea culpa, ZDNet readers.

In my post, "10 things I think I think about Palm's Pixi," I suggested in my last point that business users should still consider the device, despite a lack of Wi-Fi.

Forget I ever said that. In fact, if you're a business user: move on, nothing to see here.

Last week I was able to play with the Palm Pixi, which isn't yet available, in person. And it's the cutest darn little phone you ever did see.

In other words: if you're looking for a BlackBerry replacement, keep looking.

That's not to say the Pixi isn't a bad phone. In fact, it's a marvel of engineering, and approaches iPod nano-like proportions relative to a traditional smartphone: it's slim, incredibly light, manages a full QWERTY keyboard and a capacitive touchscreen display, all on a device that's smaller than the biggest potato chip in the bag.

[Image Gallery: Hands-on with the Palm Pixi]

The upside? It's amazing capability in such a small, (what is expected to be) affordable device.

The downside? Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

The physical difference between the Pixi and the Palm Pre -- which is illustrated above -- is notable. The screen is smaller and is less vivid, offering a physically-handicapped experience compared to a conventional smartphone.

It's a little harder to manipulate the right things with your finger, it's a little cramped to type on the pebble keyboard, and it's a little harder to read words on the screen.

But it packs an entire smartphone in a device that's 0.43 in. thick and much stouter than any similarly featured device on the market today.

On the other hand, this is the type of device that teenagers (and early twentysomethings) will love and parents will hate. Why? It's the most capable messaging (smart)phone targeted at younger users I've ever seen, but that means Mom and Dad get to pony up for a 3G data plan, too.

Tough sell.

But, defying logic, there are teenagers out there that do own BlackBerrys, and use them to message frequently and occasionally check the Internet. This is the market Palm's aiming for.

Palm is moving to steal the "I have a BlackBerry but I really don't like it" market in a way that RIM's own BlackBerry Pearl Flip didn't.

And you know what? It just might do it. The Pixi is lightweight, comes in colorful cases (as seen in the photos) and is devoid of anything that sniffs of business. In this situation, webOS serves as the ultimate contact integration engine, and gets the job done with color and flair.

So: Mobile business users? Forget about it. (Barring an emergency.)

Your kids? Definitely. There's something "Gee, whiz" about the Pixi that's inescapably perfect for the upcoming holiday season.